A sor­did con­test for the truth that sul­lies the roy­als’ name even fur­ther

An­drew and Ep­stein at Royal As­cot. Tawdry new de­tails on na­tional TV from Prince’s ac­cuser. And the ques­tion: what price will the Royal Fam­ily pay for this scan­dal?

Scottish Daily Mail - - Prince On The Rack Again - by Richard Kay

FOR MORE than two weeks, his rep­u­ta­tion has teetered on the edge. Orig­i­nally, Prince An­drew had con­vinced him­self that by broad­cast­ing di­rectly from Buck­ing­ham Palace to the public, he would ap­peal to the Bri­tish sense of fair play.

In­stead, it proved to be ex­traor­di­nar­ily naive, be­cause, for An­drew, the Jef­frey Ep­stein drama is a never-end­ing horror show.

And when a pro­gramme with a pedi­gree such as BBC TV’s Panorama turns its fo­cus on the pri­vate life of the Queen’s sec­ond son, the out­come can be far from cer­tain.

Cer­tainly the ap­pear­ance of his ac­cuser, Vir­ginia Roberts, did not match the lofty ar­ro­gance or shud­der­ing pom­pos­ity of the Prince’s en­counter with Emily Maitlis. Nor was there a smok­ing gun that could des­patch what was left of An­drew’s cred­i­bil­ity.

But what she did do was just enough to reignite the whole sor­did scan­dal. Slowly but steadily, a clearer pic­ture of this uned­i­fy­ing puz­zle is be­gin­ning to emerge.

And, for An­drew, that can­not be good news.

How he must now re­gret the folly of his de­ci­sion to go public. He will never know for sure if speak­ing out pro­voked the woman who says she was a sex slave to chal­lenge his claims that many found flimsy to the point of un­be­liev­abil­ity.

Per­haps it would have made no dif­fer­ence. Af­ter all, Roberts has been ped­dling her al­le­ga­tions for years.

But her in­ter­ven­tion on prime-time tele­vi­sion has done one thing though, turn­ing the saga into a con­test for the truth. For both fig­ures have es­sen­tially ac­cused the other of ly­ing.

HE SAID he has no rec­ol­lec­tion of meet­ing her. She said they danced and he sweated all over her. He said that was not pos­si­ble, that he could not sweat be­cause of a med­i­cal con­di­tion. She said he was ‘sweat­ing all over me . . . like it was rain­ing, ba­si­cally’.

As for the pho­to­graph in which his arm is around her bare midriff, An­drew had no mem­ory of it and has hinted at trick­ery with the pic­ture. Just an­other of the ‘ridicu­lous ex­cuses’, ac­cord­ing to Ms Roberts.

While this un­ques­tion­ably is dam­ag­ing for Prince An­drew, it is an­other deeply trou­bling episode for the Royal Fam­ily.

Just as the reper­cus­sions of his ill-judged News­night in­ter­view were be­gin­ning to be damped down, the or­deal has been stoked up again.

But then Panorama has a way of cast­ing a long shadow over the roy­als.

Twenty-four years ago, Martin Bashir’s elec­tri­fy­ing in­ter­view with Princess Diana pre­cip­i­tated the big­gest cri­sis in the House of Wind­sor since the Ab­di­ca­tion.

How tragic that af­ter last night’s grip­ping hour of tele­vi­sion with his ac­cuser, view­ers were left ask­ing who was the more plau­si­ble, a man who fought for his coun­try with great courage in the Falk­lands War or a girl who was traf­ficked as a sex slave by a bil­lion­aire pae­dophile.

An­drew risked ev­ery­thing by go­ing public and per­haps his lofty self-con­fi­dence was the re­sult of be­ing praised too highly, too soon in life. Or per­haps, like so many who make their way into in­flu­en­tial po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions, he felt im­preg­nable.

Vir­ginia Roberts had no risk to her rep­u­ta­tion, her good name had been trashed the mo­ment she be­came en­snared in Ep­stein’s vile games.

Might the Prince have been more con­vinc­ing if he had adopted some of Miss Roberts’s tech­niques?

He was un­re­hearsed and even seemed un­pre­pared for some of his ques­tions. She, on the other hand, was almost word-per­fect.

In a way, while the Roberts tes­ti­mony was un­de­ni­ably frank and cer­tainly fruity — she de­scribed An­drew as ‘the most hideous dancer I’ve seen in my life’ — Panorama also pro­duced some other com­pelling ev­i­dence.

Take, for ex­am­ple, the emails ex­changed be­tween the Prince and his friend — and the woman ac­cused of be­ing Ep­stein’s pro­curer — Ghis­laine Maxwell. They show Vir­ginia Roberts’s name writ­ten down by An­drew for the first time.

Ap­par­ently sent from the Duke of York’s own com­puter on Jan­uary 3, 2015, one says: ‘Let me know when we can talk. Got some spe­cific ques­tions to ask you about Vir­ginia Roberts.’

This, re­mem­ber, was the woman who An­drew told the BBC’s Emily Maitlis he had no rec­ol­lec­tion of even meet­ing. It raises many ques­tions.

SO WHAT should we make of it? If he did know her in­ti­mately, would he re­fer to as ‘Vir­ginia’? Or if they were strangers, might he not re­fer to her as ‘Miss Roberts’?

One thing’s for sure: the email links the Prince and the masseuse.

Then there is the pho­to­graph, taken at Royal As­cot in June 2000, years be­fore most peo­ple had ever heard of Jef­frey Ep­stein. But there he was with Ghis­laine Maxwell in the Royal En­clo­sure.

Four years af­ter his di­vorce from the Duchess of York, An­drew, then just 40, was dash­ing, still the pin-up of the Royal Fam­ily. Con­trast the hand­some young man with the puffy, age­ing Prince, now almost 60, squirm­ing un­der Emily Maitlis’s foren­sic gaze.

The As­cot pic­ture tells us that his friend­ship with Ep­stein was, if you like, hid­ing in plain sight. That day, he was sur­rounded by friends, ac­com­pa­ny­ing him were the Earl and Count­ess of Derby.

That sum­mer, fi­nancier Ep­stein had se­cured the first of his priv­i­leged royal en­trees, an in­vi­ta­tion to the ‘Dance of the Decade’, the fab­u­lous party the Queen threw at Wind­sor Cas­tle to mark not just her favourite son’s 40th, but also the Queen Mother’s cen­te­nary, Prince Wil­liam’s 18th birth­day and also the 50th and 70th re­spec­tively of Princess Anne and Princess Mar­garet.

Nei­ther email nor pho­to­graph rep­re­sents a killer fact, but the drip, drip, drip of de­tail.

In the end, last night’s Panorama is likely to be re­mem­bered as pos­ing the sim­ple ques­tion of

which ver­sion of the truth is be­lieved. An­drew gave his, flatly deny­ing ever hav­ing had sex with Miss Roberts. Last night, she gave hers.

‘He knows what hap­pened,’ she said re­fer­ring to the Duke. ‘I know what hap­pened, and there’s only one of us telling the truth, and I know that’s me.

She said that how­ever re­pel­lent she found danc­ing with An­drew, she had been un­der in­struc­tions from Maxwell and Ep­stein to keep him happy be­cause that’s what they ‘would have ex­pected from me’. When they had left Tramp night­club, Miss Roberts said Ghis­laine Maxwell gave her some in­struc­tions.

‘In the car, Ghis­laine tells me that I have to do for An­drew what I do for Jef­frey — and that just made me sick.’

She said that later that evening she had sex with An­drew up­stairs at Maxwell’s house in Bel­gravia.

With a the­atri­cal flour­ish lack­ing from An­drew’s per­for­mance, she added: ‘I im­plore the peo­ple in the UK to stand up be­side me, to help me fight this fight, to not ac­cept this as be­ing OK.

‘This is not some sor­did sex story. This is a story of be­ing traf­ficked.’

One thing from the pro­gramme is abun­dantly clear: Prince An­drew’s life has been based on connection­s, but it was just one con­tact whom he in­tro­duced to his royal world that has griev­ously damaged his rep­u­ta­tion and sul­lied the good name of the Royal Fam­ily, too.

‘There’s only one of us telling the truth, and I know that’s me’

In so­ci­ety: Jef­frey Ep­stein (cir­cled) looks on as Prince An­drew (left) chats with his old friend Caro­line Stanley, Count­ess of Derby, at Royal As­cot Ladies Day in 2000

Con­fi­dante: Ghis­laine Maxwell with Prince An­drew at the As­cot meet­ing

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